Picture it: it’s a weeknight at 6 pm. You’ve gotten out of work late and you’re making a flying trip to the grocery to pick up something for dinner for the family. You try to get in and out as fast as possible, maybe even use the self checkout. Well, once you hit a certain age those pressing time concerns tend to ease up quite a bit. For those who don’t need a speedy grocery experience a Dutch chain of supermarkets, Jumbo, has opened up slow checkout lanes. These checkouts are for people who aren’t in a rush and could use a nice, friendly chat with a relaxed cashier.

Via: Tombosch85/Wiki Commons

These lanes are part of the One Against Loneliness initiative to help alleviate loneliness in the Netherlands. You might assume this program was a post-Covid creation, but it actually dates back to 2019- showing just how much of a problem isolation has been in some industrialized countries for years now.

In The Netherlands 33% of elders over 75 surveyed reported feeling lonely, which equates to over 1 million people. According to the World Health Organization loneliness in elders is a widespread problem that’s going unaddressed in many areas.

Isolation can have a detrimental impact on mental and physical health, and social interventions, like digital visits or Jumbo’s chat checkouts, can lessen the effects of living a largely isolated life.

Via: Eduardo Soares/Unsplash

For folks who don’t have places to be a simple 5 minute conversation with a stranger at the checkout can brighten their day. It also gives more talkative cashiers a chance to shine by not rushing them along either. This sounds much like how many regular checkout lanes used to operate years ago, the same era when they used to bring your groceries to your car for you as well.

At first 200 stores participated in these slow lanes, with another 200 added later. Jumbo stores also have chat corners called Kletskassa where people can sit and talk over a cup of coffee. Sounds a far cry from the Starbucks inside many US groceries that don’t have a single table in sight.

2 people talking over coffee
Via: Priscilla Du Preez/Unsplash

These services are not open only to the elderly, but to anyone who might need some human interaction. An increasingly digital world might be partially to blame for the rise in isolation. Covid only worsened many of these issues for already at-risk people around the world. But, it’s a problem that hits elders particularly hard since they often are retired with no workplace to go to. Add to that grown children leaving the home or the death of a spouse and it makes sense why someone might greatly benefit from a bit of a chat at the grocery store.

What do you think? Are these slow checkout lanes a good idea?

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